Tresnak blazes trail before Molokai
The longtime contenders were there, and so were some of the newer ones.
But, when it comes to solo-canoe paddling -- particularly with the tradewinds blowing and swells to ride -- there is still one clear favorite: Karel Tresnak Jr.
A record five-time winner of the race considered the world championship of the sport, Tresnak won the OC-1 open division of the Kanaka Ikaika Oahu Championships yesterday in 1 hour, 46 minutes and 58.2 seconds.
It was his third straight win and fourth overall to go along with three runner-up finishes so far this solo-canoe season, with the Molokai World Championships still to come next month.
"Now the winds have started to pick up, and I'm starting to peak for (Molokai)," said the 24-year-old from Kailua. "I just try to have the schedule of races and training so that I'm doing the best by Molokai. All of these earlier races are great to do well in and gauge off of ... and it's looking all right so far."
Oahu's Manny Kulukulualani, a two-time race winner this season, finished the 16-mile course from Makai Pier to Kaimana Beach in 1:47:20.4, and placed second. Also from Oahu and an earlier race winner, Patrick Dolan (1:50:12.2) placed third, while California's Danny Ching (1:52:52.9) took fourth.
"I didn't see (Tresnak) until about Kahala," Kulukulualani, 29, said, "and he kind of edged me out around Diamond Head. ... (The waves were) 'fun' big, and hopefully Molokai is something like this."
The first competitor to cross the finish line of the more than 175 who started the race, Oahu's Nalu Kukea, 35, won the solo-surfski (SS-1) division in 1:43:52.3. Mark Sandvold placed second, at 1:44:54.3.
With both the 16-mile long course and a shorter 8-mile course (Hawaii Kai to Kaimana Beach) for the Oahu Championships, it was difficult for the competitors to determine their exact positions as the race approached its midpoint.
Still, Tresnak said that he sensed he was behind some of his fellow long-course OC-1 paddlers at that point, and that he decided to go for an outside line toward the homestretch -- a gamble that paid off with yet another victory.
"I did what I usually don't do -- went out where nobody else was, about a mile outside of everybody," Tresnak said. "After Portlock, it seemed like the tide turned and the current started running with me. I ended up making ground on everybody, and ended up ahead. It worked out."
Dane Ward (2:15:11.4) was the first female to finish the long course, followed by Arlene Holzman (2:17:30.3) and Jane McKee (2:18:38.2). All three competed on solo canoes.
Other division winners included Raven Aipa (OC-1 long course, Male 40-49) and Stuart Gaessner (SS-1 long course, Male 30-39).
The solo state championships will be held on Oahu on April 30, but many of the top paddlers -- including Tresnak and Kulukulualani -- will be racing in the Maui Challenge. They will use this race as their tune-up for the 32-mile world championships next month.
Whichever race they choose, the top OC-1 paddlers will be hoping it will be part of the recipe for later success in the world championships -- and, perhaps, taking down Tresnak.
"The field is getting closer," Kulukulualani said. "It will be close. I think it's pretty (much) up for grabs."